A consideration of the above list mil show that In a great many languages, only the
r of rang has survived, In others it has been changed to th or i. In old Chinese, only the
r remains with the prefix mo. The r has been dropped in modern Chinese^ and only the
prefix seems to remain under the form'ww.
Finally, in the Tai languages, with which we are immediately concerned, the like
fate has befallen rang. Only the prefix md appears to remain. Every trace of the
original word, except perhaps the pronunciation of the a of the prefix, has disappeared*
We can now understand how, in Ahom, the same word md means b@th * horse ' and * dog/
Moreover, Professor Comedy explains how the system of tones has arisen from this
elision of prefixes, or of the original word. It is not so much that, after the elision had
taken place, the speakers found it necessary to distinguish between similar sounding
words, and hence invented tones. The tones were automatic results of th© elision of the
prefixes. For instance, the prefix of a causal verb was , which was originally an
independent syllable. It first lost this character On account of the stronger stress
naturally laid on the main word which followed it, and in compensation for this loss, th©
following syllable was pronounced in a higher tone. When the prefixed s finally dis-
appeared, the higher tone remained behind. We are hence enabled to say that certain
tones indicate the earlier existence of certain prefixes. In other words, the origin of the
system of tones is not based on arbitrary inflexions of the voice, but on a natural process
Couplets and Compounds? -As in other members of the Siamese- Chinese
group of Indo-Chinese tongues, each Tai language is an isolating form of speech; that is
to 3ay it uses ' each element by itself, in its integral form.' Each simple word is a monosyl-
lable, which never changes its shape, which gives the idea of one or more root-meanings, and
to which the ideas, supplied in Aryan languages by the accidents of declension or conjuga-
tion, can be supplied by compounding it with other words possessing the root-mean-
ings of the relations of place or time.
Each monosyllabic word in these languages may have several meanings, and, as
above described, these are primarily differentiated by the use of tones.
But this tone system has not been found sufficient, and words are also differentiated
by a system of compounding known as the formation of ' couplets.' The system in its
essence is this, two different words, each with several different meanings, but possess-
ing one meaning in common, are joined together, and the couplet thus formed has only
the meaning common to the two, This system is characteristic of the Siamese-Chinese
group of languages and should be carefully mastered,
For instance, take the words Ha and plidn. KM, amongst its other significations,
means (1) f slave*, (2) 'cut'; yhdn, amongst its other significations, means (1) 'an
order', (2) 'poor', (3) 'sorrow', (4) 'cut.1 The couplet TthayMn means 'cut', and
nothing else, because < cut ' is the only meaning common to its two members.
Other examples of such couplets are,1 *
, go-go, to go.
tmg, place-place, to place, to put on (clothes).
ai, all-all, all.
mun-kliun, rejoicing-rejoicing, happiness
J Hne and elsewhere, unless otherwise stated, all examples are takea from ihorn